Wednesday, May 1, 2013

In His Time

He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man's heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end (Ecclesiastes 3:11, ESV).

A few years ago, with my grandmother's birthday gift I ordered 5 rosebushes: 3 pink, one deep red, and one peppermint-striped pale pink and fuchsia. Most of them are the full, crinolined, English-style roses, which I generally prefer over the elegant simplicity of florist's roses.

Four of the five have bloomed prolifically, despite the pests which war against them. The fifth, however, possibly my favorite, this unusual variegated rose named for the Italian city where my sister once lived--this rose has not bloomed the past two years. When it comes to gardening, the division of labor at Wits' End is clear: my dubious specialty is gathering, trimming, and nestling flowers in jars and vases; Amore does the heavy lifting, sometimes literally, and most anything involving dirt or insects. Logically, then, when this Variegata di Bologna rose failed to thrive, I begged, wheedled, and cajoled him to do something about it. It was too crowded, I said. The other roses blocked all its light, I said. Couldn't we take a cutting to start for a different area and see if it succeeded there? I said. It's fine; it's healthy; just wait, he said.

Sigh. Ebony and I are not so much fans of waiting.

This year, this third year, with absolutely no change in placement, light, or water, the Bologna rose is laden with blooms. I can hardly keep up with deadheading and gathering them. The lemony citrus perfume and their stripes, as unique as fingerprints from blossom to blossom, make me smile every day. Actually, there was one change this year. For various reasons, the shrubs were never pruned back last autumn but left to their own leafy devices.

Crumbles, am I the only one with a few prayers like that? Prayers that leaf out but simply won't bloom when expected? Prayers that require years of water, sunlight, pruning, and fertilizer to no avail? I suspect I'm not.

When that happens, sometimes I beg, wheedle, and cajole my heavenly Gardener too. Granted, Jesus urges us to persistence in prayer (see Luke 18:1-8). That in itself is not a bad thing. The issue here, perhaps, is my tone of voice, which sometimes (or perhaps more often) assumes that I know better than He how life ought to go or that I love the one for whom I pray more than He does.

This rose reminds me that I am to persist in cultivating my supplications in faithfulness, with the promises of Scripture and remembrance of God's past works and eternal character to nourish them. However, I will also do well to relinquish my own efforts to manipulate outcomes or speed up the answer through my own efforts. Undergirding all my prayers should be Jesus' Gethsemane prayer, "Nevertheless, Thy will be done."

The Lord may grant some petitions in three years, some in three months, some in three decades. Some may never come to fruition in our own finite span of years yet stand as stalwart oaks in heaven instead of rosebushes on earth.

Lord, in Your great mercies encourage us to wait in hope and confident expectation that our prayers will bear good fruit in Your time.  Where our knees buckle and our hands grow slack with crying to You, send us a reminder, a new leaf or a bud perhaps, or a word in season from a brother or sister to fortify us. We cannot force Your hand anyway; forgive us for trying to do so and for the havoc we wreak trying to answer our own prayers in our own way and time. You alone are the God who hears prayers. You are the God who responds to our cries. Hear the longings of each reading heart now, O Lord, we ask You, in the name of Jesus. Amen.

Therefore the Lord waits to be gracious to you,
and therefore he exalts himself to show mercy to you.
For the Lord is a God of justice;
blessed are all those who wait for him.

Isaiah 30:18, ESV

sharing belatedly with Laura's Playdates with God community

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